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Climate change could destroy 80 per cent of rainforest

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Fewer than one in five of the plants and animals which currently live in the world's rainforests will still be here in 90 years time, a study predicts.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
 

 
Rainforests currently hold more than half of all the plant and animal species on Earth.
However, scientists say the combined effects of climate change and deforestation may force them to adapt, move, or die.
By 2100, this could have altered two-thirds of the rainforests in Central and South America, about 70 per cent in Africa.

The Amazon Basin alone could see changes in biodiversity for 80 per cent of the region.

Greg Asner, of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology in California, who led the research, said it was the first study yet to show the world's natural ecosystems will undergo profound changes.

He explained: "This is the first global compilation of projected ecosystem impacts for humid tropical forests affected by these combined forces.

"For those areas of the globe projected to suffer most from climate change, land managers could focus their efforts on reducing the pressure from deforestation, thereby helping species adjust to climate change, or enhancing their ability to move in time to keep pace with it.

"On the flip side, regions of the world where deforestation is projected to have fewer effects from climate change could be targeted for restoration."

Asner and his team made their findings by looking at global deforestation and logging maps from satellite imagery, and high-resolution data from 16 climate-change projections worldwide.

They then ran scenarios on how different types of species could be geographically reshuffled by 2100.

The results showed only 18 per cent- less than a fifth to 45 per cent less than half- of the plants and animals making up ecosystems in tropical rainforests may remain as we known them today.

Daniel Nepstad, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, which studies climate change in Massachusetts, said: "This study is the strongest evidence yet that the world's natural ecosystems will undergo profound changes including severe alterations in their species composition through the combined influence of climate change and land use.

"Conservation of the world's biota, as we know it, will depend upon rapid, steep declines in greenhouse gas emissions."

The study was published in the journal Conservation Letters.

- http://www.telegraph.co.uk

 

 
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